Los Angeles County courts announced Tuesday, July 18, that sweeping new protocols will go into effect Oct. 1 to significantly reduce the use of cash bail for those arrested or cited for nonviolent, nonserious, low-level offenses.
Presiding Judge Samantha P. Jessner said during a video news conference that the shift moves the Superior Court system away from a wealth-based prearraignment detention system that “rises and falls on one’s ability to pay money bail, regardless of risk to the community.”
“Rather, for those arrested for nonviolent, nonserious felonies and misdemeanors, our new protocol will determine release status, based on risk and on an individual’s circumstances,” Jessner said.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment regarding the impact of the new protocols on its operations.
The protocols, unanimously adopted by the court’s executive committee, are based on research showing that a prearraignment monetary bail system is inequitable and ineffective in protecting the public and ensuring nonviolent offenders return to court, Jessner said.
A newly released Judicial Council of California study shows that risk-based release decisions that are not reliant on money bail result in increased public safety, with a 5.8% decrease in rearrest/rebooking for misdemeanors and a 2.4% decrease for felonies. according to the courts.
Superior Court Judge Lawrence P. Riff issued a preliminary injunction in May prohibiting the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles Police Department from enforcing cash bail to hold in jail those charged with infractions and misdemeanors.
However, the remaining 45 independent law enforcement agencies within the county have been allowed to continue to hold inmates from the time of arrest through arraignment.
Under the traditional bail schedule model, crimes correspond with specific dollar amounts that individuals can post as bail to secure release prior to their arraignment, which is typically held within 48 hours of arrest regardless of their risk to public safety and the likelihood of their return to court.
The protocols included in Los Angeles County’s new bail schedules will correspond with prearraignment release terms based on the arrestee’s risk of endangering the public and skipping arraignment.
The majority of individuals arrested for low-level, nonviolent, nonserious offenses will be released at the location of arrest or booked and then released on their own recognizance with a promise to appear in court, according to the new protocols.
Individuals arrested for certain crimes that pose a greater risk to the public will be referred to a magistrate, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, who will determine the appropriate nonfinancial prearraignment release.
Additionally, those arrested for felonies while on Post-Release Community Supervision or on parole will not be eligible for cite-and- release or book-and-release and instead will be referred to a magistrate for review.
Those charged with capital offenses or certain serious or violent felonies will remain ineligible for prearraignment release.
The schedules adopted by Los Angeles County courts are consistent with those in other jurisdictions throughout the nation, including New Jersey, Kentucky and Washington D.C.